Chargers report card preseason game one

Evaluations have begun in earnest as the San Diego Chargers dropped their first preseason game. With an eye on making the roster for some and solidifying a starting job for others, the competition was heated. Several players who did not stand out in camp proved they are solid where it counts – on the playing field.

Quarterbacks: Drew Brees performed well. He scanned the field and seemed sure of himself in the pocket. A couple of his throws were off target but receivers still were able to capture the ball. His QB rating of 136.9 was the highest in at least one person's memory. The most significant stat is four passes of 20 yards or more. Cleo Lemon also had a fine day. He showed his usual zip on the ball and minus one ill-fated pass he was on target. He would have had two touchdowns had a certain running back made a catch near the goalline.

Grade: B+

Running backs: Jesse Chatman may be the king of the preseason if for no other reason than it is the only time he sees the ball. He proved tough to take down on initial contact and at just under 230 pounds can handle a pounding. Doug Chapman was called one of the toughest runners ever by a former head coach in the NFL. He showed why with consistent runs inside the tackles and a touchdown. Michael Turner did not display what made him a fifth round pick, lacking a burst through the hole. Phillip Crosby had a chance to prove his worth with Andrew Pinnock out and responded by dropping a sure touchdown reception.

Grade: C-

Wide Receivers: Reche Caldwell led the team with 61 receiving yards. He played three quarters and made some nice adjustments on the ball. Grant Mattos was the only other wide receiver with more than one catch. Micah Ross slipped into the secondary and almost fell when he realized how wide open he was.

Grade: C

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates caught one pass and it went for a touchdown. It was a terribly thrown ball in a perfect place and Gates had to contort his body to make the catch, snaring it just before it hit the ground. Josh Norman was the only other player with three catches and continues to show the ability to get open on a regular basis. He did contribute two of his trademark drops on the day and despite progress in his blocking in camp, missed a block in the game. Justin Peelle had one nice downfield catch and provided decent blocking up front. Ryan Krause and Brock Edwards each had a catch but did not distinguish themselves.

Grade: B

Offensive line: The line held off any semblance of pressure. Out of all the passes the team threw on the day only twice was their memorable pressure. Courtney VanBuren looked solid on the left side of the line, allowing one pressure. Toniu Fonoti was solid and showed some vintage run blocks to open lanes. Nick Hardwick had a quiet night. It wasn't that he was getting beat but rather went largely untested. Mike Goff may be the best pulling linemen this team has had in a long time. Roman Oben was solid. Shane Olivea stuck out from the reserves. He played with a mean streak out there. David Brandt did not have a good showing. It is no wonder the Chargers reopened negotiations with Jason Ball.

Grade: B

Defensive line:

The run defense was outstanding as Jamal Williams has found a home and he likes it. I dare say that he has never looked so good. Ryon Bingham was active at the point of attack in Williams' stead and he showed why he is a run plugger. The pass rush from the line had its moments, particularly the first team. Otis Leverette and Igor Olshansky added pressure and were each a second away from a sack they could call their own. Dave Ball defied the camp naysayers by doing what he does best, rushing the passer and getting penetration, recording one sack and missing another.

Grade: B-


Stephen Cooper and Steve Foley were the best players on the field. Each showed a trait or two that was missing from the linebacking group last year – speed and penetration ability. They were everywhere and anywhere and routinely making plays in the backfield. Shaun Phillips showed why the Chargers tabbed him as an outside rush specialist. His speed was too much for linemen to handle. He had one sack, whiffed on another and had a chance for a third. His biggest gaffe was an interception he should have had with under a minute to go. Matt Wilhelm was active in the middle and it was the first time that he actually stood out on the field, including his whole rookie season.

Grade: A-


Drayton Florence had some solid downfield coverage, batting away one ball as it arrived but he will go down in infamy for not picking the ball out of Aaron Moorehead's back pocket and allowing him to go 80 yards for a touchdown. Jamar Fletcher just missed an interception, batting a ball into the air, but made a rookie mistake when he failed to touch a downed receiver. The secondary as a whole was not impressive. They seemed to play too much off the ball and were in bend-don't-break mode. With more pressure up front than they were used to, they would have been better served attacking. It could have resulted in a pick or two. Instead they were pummeled and were credited with just two passes defensed while allowing 69 percent of the Colts passes to be completed.

Grade: D+

Special teams:

Mike Scifres was solid in his punting debut. He pinned the Colts deep on three occasions and none of his punts were returned. Nate Kaeding was a rookie in every sense of the word. His kickoffs were not deep with the longest reaching the nine yard line and he missed a chip shot from 25 yards out, hooking it wide left. Wes Welker returned every kick that came his way and broke one for 44 yards on the Chargers final drive, setting up a field goal.

Grade: C-


Wade Phillips gave glimpses of what the defense is capable of with different players rushing off the edge. It was exciting to watch. Playing off the receivers was a mistake. Cam Cameron had a nice playbook for his assorted parts and got everyone involved. He even had the quarterback throwing on first down. Coach Schottenheimer did not have to do much coaching at all with so many players needing time on the field. He did allow Welker to have every punt return in the game and gave Kaeding his shot, hoping that increased touches would give a hint to their ability. That was a good strategy rather than giving each one touch and replacing them. Next week will likely mean another player steps into the role to be evaluated. Steve Crosby gets a failing grade for twice having too man men on the field called on his special teams unit. Plus, the penalties in that phase of the game were more numerous than anywhere else.

Grade: B-

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